Headphones Guide

The Headphone Primer

Today, most mobile devices, mp3 players and tablets come standard with a basic pair of earphones and at one point or another, most of us actually use them.

More people are purchasing their music and videos in digital file formats today than they are buying hardcopies of their favorite albums, television shows or movies.

No longer are we limited to watching movies on our TV or listening to music over a stereo system. Even when we choose to watch or listen to those formats, we still have the option, in most cases, of listening to the audio privately via headphones or earphones.

While they were previously just an accessory that some men wore when listening to their WalkMan or DiscMan, today, headphones are a staple that virtually everyone under the age of fifty use on a frequent basis.

Professional sound engineer wearing headphones

Professional sound engineer wearing headphones

The History of Headphones

Believe it or not, headphones actually originated out of the earpieces which were originally used before amplifiers were invented to listen to electrical audio signals. Created in 1910 by a man named Nathaniel Baldwin, the pair he first invented in his kitchen subsequently sold to the US Navy. Within ten years, headphone earpieces were commonly used in radio.

Not only were the first pairs of headphones uncomfortable, but they also proved very dangerous for the wearer as they were of extremely high voltage and often resulted in shock to the user when trying to adjust them.

It wasn’t until the early 1940s, when John Koss, a jazz musician, created the first stereo headphones. Prior to this time, the only headphones in use, despite being commonplace in industry, were worn by telephone operators and those who needed to listen to various radio communication systems.

Since the invention of the stereo headphones in 1943, it has become a booming industry and has seen some impressive developments. Today there are many styles and types of headphones and earphones both corded and wireless.

Types of Headphones

Stereo headphones are primarily used today by two groups of individuals: amateur music enthusiasts and professionals in the music and film industry.

While wired headphones are still around and generally come standard with new devices, one of the most popular after-market headphones and earphones for sale are wireless which rely on a radio or infrared signal like Bluetooth and Wifi.

Headphones feature an earpiece that covers the ear and is connected with a band that clamps gently over the top of the skull. Earphones on the other hand are smaller in design and feature buds that sit snugly inside the opening of the ear canal. While the earphone style is most popular with amateur music listeners, headphones are commonplace in the professional sector with sound engineers and disc jockeys who rely on them to do their jobs.

Large headphone jack connector is no longer the standard

Large headphone jack connector is no longer the standard

For those who still prefer wired headphones, or simply utilize the free pair that comes with their electronic devices, the standard wire features common universal connectors that are referred to as 6.35 mm and 3.5 mm. The larger connectors are typically used in professional recording environments or older stereo systems whereas the smaller variant is common for all other listening apparatus such as the iPod, most smartphones and the majority of tablets and computers.

The size of the headphones can be a major contributor to the balance between fidelity and portability. In most cases, it divides them into four categories: supra-aural, earbud, in-ear and circumaural.

Supra-aural headphones are the kind with comfort pads that sit against the side of the ear but don’t cup them. They’re smaller in size than that of circumaural headphones which results in less attenuation of external noise. Unfortunately, they can also result in some significant discomfort due to the pressure on the ear when compared to circumaural headphones that cup the entire ear.

Supra-aural on the ear headphones

Supra-aural on the ear headphones

Depending on what kind of sound you want to hear, both of these styles come in open-back with the rear of the ear cups open which allows for ambient soundstage style sound. They also come in sealed back which gives the wearer the perception that the sound is coming from inside their head.

For those wanting a balance, there are semi-open headphones as well. It really comes down to the experience that the user is looking for.

Circumaural headphones as opposed to supra-aural feature large comfort pads that cup the entire ear. Often, these are simply referred to in-store as full sized headphones. Since they are much larger, they also tend to weigh more resulting in a bulkier appearance and, in some cases, neck discomfort. However, these are typically the most comfortable styles for the ears. They’re my favorite style.

Circumaural headphones

Circumaural headphones

Earphones on the other hand, which are also called earbuds are the smallest headphones that fit directly inside the outer ear without protruding into the canal. They’re the most portable and less expensive, often coming as a complimentary accessory with personal electronics. Despite their popularity, they are actually the least comfortable and provide very little acoustic isolation. This causes the wearer to turn the volume up to dangerous levels which is a major source of hearing loss. Aside from this, one of the major drawbacks is that the less expensive, or free pairs have a habit of falling out. Companies such as Apple have attempted to redesign their earphones but they’re still less comfortable than the larger headphones.

In-ear headphones, unlike earphones actually protrude into the ear canal, rather than just facing it. It provides more protection from outside noise and are often used as a compact and lightweight alternative for professional audio specialists and musicians. Since they fit directly into the ear canal, they aren’t as likely to fall out or dislodge like the standard earbuds. However, they have resulted in serious accidents as they block out more external noise which many users don’t take into account. This is particularly dangerous for those who are operating motor vehicles or walking and riding in high traffic or hazardous areas. Most of the standard in-ear headphones come with a selection of rubber plugs intended for the user to select the one that fits best into their ear. More expensive pairs also sometimes offer custom plugs that are molded for the individual user.

Noise Reduction

For those wanting to be completely absorbed by the music and not ambient noise, the best options for passive noise isolation is to purchase in-ear headphones or closed-back headphones which provided the highest attenuation levels. When we compare typical retail headphones, the closed-back version blocks anywhere between 8 and 12 dB and the in-ear version blocks 10 to 15 dB. There are higher priced models that are designed for use by musicians that purport to reduce external noise by up to 25 dB but I’ve never tested one of these pairs.

If passive noise cancelation isn’t enough, there is always the option of active noise-canceling headphones which utilize a compact microphone, speaker and amplifier to pick up, amplify and play ambient noise in phase-reversed form. What this does is cancels noise from outside the earpiece without affecting the sound of what you’re listening to. Since these types require a significant battery source, they are usually more expensive and require regular charging or battery changes.

Benefits of Headphones

The biggest benefit of headphones is privacy and the ability to prevent or limit outside sources from hearing what you’re listening to. Hands down, this is the most common reason for wearing headphones.

Headphones allow the user to be able to listen to audio they want without having to worry about offensive material or disturbing others in public places such as libraries, public transportation or even in an office environment.

In addition, headphones offer video game players the ability to better judge the position of sounds coming from off-screen. This is particularly useful for first person shooter games such as Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto.

Dangers of wearing headphones

Dangers of wearing headphones

Drawbacks of Headphones

The biggest limitation or risk of using headphones is of course personal safety. Those wearing headphones are significantly impervious to outside noise which can act as an alarm in the case of danger. There have been many cases of people being struck by moving objects such as cars because they weren’t paying attention or didn’t hear horns or the sound of skidding tires. In addition, there have been times where people have been caught in dangerous situations because they couldn’t hear the sound of debris falling, people warning them verbally or even fire alarms in public buildings and private homes.

There are also risks for others. Since the invention of the Walkman, there have been many cases of children being injured or killed because their guardian was wearing headphones and didn’t hear them call for help. This can be particularly dangerous for those responsible for young children incapable of walking or escaping danger on their own accord.

Finally, there are serious concerns with the volume levels that many headphone users continually operate their sound at. Headphones have increasingly become a considerable cause of both temporary and permanent hearing loss. Experts suggest that less than 5% of all headphone users listen at appropriate volume levels. Since most headphone users tend to wear headphones when in public, they also tend to turn the volume up louder than they normally would to prevent ambient noise from penetrating the earpiece.

One further risk is that many users tend to wear headphones during exercise which can increase their chance of risking hearing loss compared to when listening while the body is at rest. Experts recommend only listening for half hour intervals while engaging in any strenuous activity.

Recommended Headphones

There are many headphones available on the market today at various price points from just a few dollars upwards of thousands. While many people opt to simply use the free earbuds that came with their smartphone, other audiophiles choose to purchase aftermarket, higher quality headphones.


Click here to learn more about these headphones.

AKG Pro Audio K812PRO Superior Reference Headphones – $1,199.00

You may remember these headphones after we featured them in our Holiday Gift Guide. AKG makes some of the most superlative headphones on the market that offers the highest quality sound you’ll possibly ever hear while exterminating ambient noise. If you are one of those people who want or need the best quality headphones on the market than these are for you. The feature exceptional 53mm transducers with an open-back technology that reduces reflection for naturally accurate sound with a powerful music listening experience. They’re ideal for both the professional sound engineer but also the audiophile listening to his beats on the way to work. One should note, that with most good headphones, you won’t experience anything close to high quality sound until you’ve broken them in which usually takes about 24 hours of audio playback. Once they are broken in though, you’ll never buy another pair of headphones. Simply because no other will compare. Click here to buy a pair of these AKG headphones now. Of course, AKG also has a number of other headphones on the market beginning at a much lower price point under $200.


Want to learn more about these headphones? Click here

Audeze LCD-3 Headphones – From $2,600

The flagship headphones of world-renowned Audeze, the LCD-3 provides the listener with an experience like no other. The sound is rich and spacious with an ultra-realism factor you need to hear to believe. For those looking for one of the best pairs of headphones in the world, there is no substitute. Buy them here.

Stax SR-009 – $3,600

Although we have never heard these high-end electrostatic headphones from Japan, some connoisseurs swear by them. At $3600 for a pair of headphones they are definitely only for the serious audiophile with enough change.

Koss PortaPro Headphones – $40

If you’re looking for a well constructed piece of audio machinery at an exceptionally reasonable price, it’s time to check out a brand named Koss. The company has been making headphones for more then 50 years, which explains why they’re so good at what they do. They produce some of the best high fidelity headphones at remarkable prices. Granted, you can easily find cheaper headphones in store, but they’re just that – cheap. Koss will give you an experience that even the most discerning music lover will respect and appreciate. You can buy them here.

Sennheiser HD 800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Headphone

Sennheiser HD 800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Headphone

Sennheiser HD 800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Headphones – $1,500

German headphone manufacturer, Sennheiser, offers one of the widest ranges of headphones starting at right around $30 and moving upwards of thousands. With Sennheiser, regardless of the price you pay, you’re getting a really exemplary package. In business for almost 70 years, Sennheiser is synonymous with high fidelity. When it comes to highly discerning audiophiles, these Sennheiser HD 800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Headphones are state-of-the-art and showcase it through it’s powerful sound.

With ongoing debate between electronic reproduction and natural sound, these headphones are specifically engineered to replicate natural hearing with dynamic acoustics. Using an advanced driver technology, the circum-aural headphones redefine what it means to listen to your music. We highly recommend these headphones and you can get your pair by clicking here.

Or, if you’re looking for noise-canceling headphones at a lower price, these ones from Sennheiser are remarkably efficient and only cost $200. You can buy them on sale here.

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Headphones

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Headphones

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Headphones – $300

Bowers & Wilkins has long enjoyed a stellar reputation of being one of the most iconic and well respected audio companies in the world. At just $300, these headphones are designed for pristine sound and luxurious comfort. Rather than going with the flow, Bowers & Wilkins uses soft sheep’s leather to provide users ears with an almost pillow-like cushion for their ears. Music quality is maintained through the use of linear neodymium magnets and highly optimized Mylar diaphragms and they back up their claims with a standard 2-year warranty. Buy them here.

Sennheiser HD 650 – $330

Fantastic sounding headphones that provide great value for the money. However, they are only suited to people who are ok with open headphones. If you are in a noisy environment or if you do not want others to hear any of your music? these are not for you. Also, some people have complained about the wire quality. I have never owned one long enough to experience it myself, but you should be aware of that fact. Get them here.

Bose Quiet Comfort 25 Headphones – $300

There aren’t many companies as well known as Bose when it comes to high quality sound. Bose has done for music what IMAX has done for film and their products are often considered some of the very best by non-professional, average consumers. Slightly overpriced in our opinion, they’re still no where close to the price of Beats By Dre, but feature a quality of sound that gets audiophiles buzzing. Well known for their ability to protect the wearer from ambient sound, Bose headphones are worthy of considering when you’re looking for that famous household name and a great, but slightly more expensive, pair of headphones. Buy them here.

AKG K550 Closed-Back Reference Class Headphones – $190

Once you have these headphones burned in (which takes about 15 hours), you have a comfortable, balanced and excellent sounding pair of headphones for under $200. They work particularly well for people with large ears and a favorite of Sven Raphael Schneider.

Panasonic In-Ear Headphones – $10

For really entry-level headphones that are still better than your Apple EarPods, try these in-ear headphones from Panasonic. At just $10 you can’t go wrong and they can often be found on sale. They work with any portable mp3 player, phone or tablet and come standard with a one year warranty. Buy them here.

PSB M4U 2 Active Noise Canceling Headphones

PSB M4U 2 Active Noise Canceling Headphones

PSB M4U 2 Active Noise Canceling Headphones – $400

With their padded ear cups, and active noise canceling technology, these headphones from PSB are idea for those seeking complete audio engagement with no outside interference. The active listening mode uses a built-in amplifier for the most powerfully precise audio you can get. Thanks to an in-line remote microphone, the headphones also feature portable hands-free operation with a range of Apple products including the iPod, iPhone and iPad. You can buy them here.

The Look of Headphones

Gentleman’s Gazette reader and vintage clothes lover Ingemar from Sweden makes a valid point: Sound Quality is not all that counts! These headphones are made with Harris Tweed by UrbanEars.

Ingemar A from Sweden with Tweed Headphones from Urban Ears

Ingemar A from Sweden with Tweed Headphones from Urban Ears



Music is life for many of us and a way to express, motivate and even relax ourselves. Owning a well constructed pair of quality headphones is something I would personally recommend to any listener that would use them on a regular basis. It’s money well spent in my opinion. What’s your favorite pair of headphones?

Special thank you to sound expert Callum Gaudet – Recording Engineer, Halifax, Nova Scotia for his assistance with this article.

Article Name
The Headphones Primer
The ultimate guide on how to buy headphones, earphones and earbuds of all kinds. Complete with reviews and suggestions.
21 replies
  1. Joe says:

    So J.A. by introducing your article by excluding a very popular, major brand of headphones, using the excuse of seeking “Quality and Value”, and then throwing up a couple of ‘phones in the $1200-2600 (rich and spacious with an ultra-realism indeed!) range, you have relegated the entire article to a complete lack of credibility. I have respect for many of your opinions in other articles, but I finally bought my first set of Beats after having many other sets, some listed here, and they are HANDS DOWN the best, most versatile set of ‘phones I’ve ever used. Not to mention they work great for hands-free phone calls that come in while listening too! The latest model Studio and Studio Wireless get excellent reviews which I can confirm from personal experience with the wireless model. The do noise reduction, not cancellation, while listening, so in theory are safer and less isolating (a loud horn honk will get through!). The can remember pairings to multiple devices so have no trouble working with iPhone, computer, an android and home theater all without re-pairing. The listen time per charge is outstanding, the bluetooth range is very good, there are easy tools to keep the firmware updated and the sound… I’m not audiophile but I’ve been very impressed and I listen to a very wide range of music from pre-WWI recordings to the present. If you are afraid to try them because of past reviews, or the association with Dr. Dre, or whatever, you really need to past that and try them. And as gentlemen of style, the gold and white model is a perfect and stylish match for my gold and white iPhone 6+ with it’s olive-brown leather case.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      The article was written by J.A., the introduction by me. As always we offer suggestions at the top end, the middle and the low end. You can find headphones for $10 in the guide and for $3600. Beats are simply overpriced and more of a lifestyle product in my opinion, but I am happy to test them anytime. However, if you like them, that’s great, please use them, and I am grateful for your comment.
      At the end of the day it all depends on what you like.
      To make your comment even more helpful: What pair did you buy specifically?

      • Joe says:

        So, my apologies to J.A. for confusing him with the intro. You are naturally welcome to think Beats are an overpriced (but a 10th of the $3600 models in the article?) “lifestyle” product but you would be at odds with a number of reviewers I read before buying. I suppose much depends on the individual’s definition of quality and value at a given price point. I did mention the model I own is the Studio Wireless. The current version being sold is an update to the original design with many improvements. Still, not everyone will like it. I also own the Beats Pill XL speaker and find it has an amazing sound quality for it’s size and is perfect for around the house or outdoors.

        No one should ever make a purchase decision for a consumer electronics device based on one (or two) men’s opinions from a men’s fashion/lifestyle web site. But if we’re going to talk about such things here, from cheap throwaways to the very out of the ordinary $2600 or $3600 models wasted on compressed digital music, then dismissing Beats by name beforehand just doesn’t work for me.

        • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

          Joe, you keep referencing the $3,600, although you should reference comparable headphones. As you know that last 20% often require 80% of the funds. Compare the Beats to something in the same price range, and you might find that other offer more or you might find that you like Beats.
          If you love Beats, that’s great, we don’t love them, and that’s fine too. As long as you get some inspiration out of this article and an introduction to the topic of headphones all is good.

          I recommend to start with the $10 headphones and see how you like that. In my experience your Beats are not worth 20 times as much ;).

      • Sascha says:

        I have to agree !
        I make music since twenty years as a musician by myself and i also co produced some albums.
        The beats are the most overrated and overpriced Headphones on the market and if you ever listen to good pair of headphones ” I recommend the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO which only cost’s 149€ ” you know what i mean.

  2. Don Dailey says:

    If someone prefers not to be tethered to the sound generating device, whether it be a cd and/or dvd player, television, computer or what have you, Sennheiser’s RS 170 Digital Wireless Headphones, which run a little over $200, are superb and a great value. One top feature, along with the great sound quality even at a fair distance from the source, is that the rechargeable batteries in the headphones can be removed and replaced – a feature not always found in other brands of comparable price.

  3. Mark Hewitt says:

    Personally I am not now a great fan of headphones having had a long experience as a recording producer .
    I really feel that our sensitive eardrums are not meant to have sound as close as only a few tiny millimetres . In the past though have used and owned some premium brands in the course of my music appreciation .

    Perhaps the better option is a quality speaker at low levels and sit around two metres from the source .
    Happy listening

  4. Robert M. Strippy says:

    A very informative article that is right on. As a card-carrying high-end audiophile, reader of Stereophile since day one, and concert organist who has made many recordings, I can testify that every engineer I’ve worked with has used either AKG or Sennheiser cans. They are the top of the pack, and the ones which cost only a few hundred dollars are superb. You don’t have to spend a thousand dollars, which is up in the Diminishing Rreturns category. It was good to see such a professionally accurate article. And yes, anybody who understands the term “high fidelity” won’t go anywhere near the Beats, which are for the K-Mart crowd.

    • Joe says:

      Sorry Robert, I don’t doubt the quality of your ear or your well-read opinion. But offensive remarks about “K-Mart crowd” smack of the “high fidelity” snobbery I see lots of other places. I understand that there is fidelity of recording and then there is what sounds good to an individual. I’ve hung around enough dual-mono valve amp flat EQ people to know what I like is not what they like. And frankly, what they like is the idea of “purity” rather than actual Fidelity in my opinion. Frankly, I’m sorry this topic was ever brought up in this forum because it’s more of a “religious” topic than a gentlemanly one. Why don’t we just agree that you won’t go anywhere near Beats even though you’ve never had a pair on your head because you believe the marketing over the reality of the product. Maybe it’s even because they are too “dark”??

      • Eric says:

        So you want to talk about being gentlemanly and then throw out a wholly unsubstantiated accusation of racism at someone?

        I hate to burst your bubble, but Beats is nowhere near the top of the line for headphones for its price range; they are largely style over substance. They have improved since their terrible first models, but you can pick up a pair of Audio Technica ATH-MSR7’s, or a pair of Grado SR325e’s, or a pair of Sennheiser Momentum’s or Urbanite’s and blow a pair of Beats out of the water for similar or less money.

        I haven’t heard the Phillips Fidelio M2L’s yet, but given Phillips’ penchant for audiophile quality sound in the Fidelio line, they should make Beats the second best headphone choice for the Apple market. But they probably won’t, because they don’t have Beats’ marketing appeal.

        If Beats doesn’t want to compete to win over audiophiles, that’s their prerogative; I’m sure they’re laughing all the way to the bank. But that doesn’t make them better.

  5. Kurt says:

    Boy oh boy, interesting discussions. If you don’t mind I might throw my two cents worth in. First let me say I am a HUGE Bang & Olufsen fan, for a number of reasons. This includes their headphones. I have tried many headsets over the years (including Beats) however always tend to gravitate back to B&o.

    A little while ago I had an opportunity to meet David Lewis, head designer of B&o. During the course of discussion he said something to me that has always been a reference point for me when considering audio equipment.

    A persons reference point to any listening equipment is live music in a theatre or concert and every human being hears differently which includes the quality of an individual’s ear drum. So if live music sits at 100% quality for an individual then we have to look at a reproduction as a percentage of that collelated to price. Therefore if you were to spend say, less then $5000.00 on equipment then your expectation will sit at about 30-50% quality to live music. To raise that to 60-70% you need to spend a lot more say up to $15,000 – $20,000. To raise that to 80% the cost goes up even more. I have friends who have spent in excess of $200k on systems which sound simply sublime, but I still consider those to be at about 90% of a live orchestra.

    Mr Lewis said to me that B&o strive to sit in the 60-80%.

    Now consider how much it costs for a live band or orchestra to set up with high end professional equipment? Take an orchestra, throw a strad or two in. Millions I suppose.

    Now again, this all very much depends on how you hear. Personally I am very very sensitive to bass. I hate hearing that thumping which to my ear overpowers the music. I suppose this is why I like the B&o headphones. The bass is controlled and they deliver an overall very smooth and warm sound. However some of my friends do not like them and prefer Bose or even Beats.

    I suppose what I’m saying is that what people hear is extremely different. However cost does come into it. It has to. Engineering, design, comfort etc etc. it’s kind of like, Bentley, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Porsche, BMW. great cars depending what you like, but their all better then a Corolla… ( Sorry if you drive a Corolla…just saying). Cheers

  6. Mikko Reinikainen says:

    Thanks for the article. I sort of collect headphones as I am busy listener of a wide variety of “classical ” music from early music solos to Wagner operas, I need a wide range of headphones too. I love AKG, Gradonand Sennheiser (in alphabetical order here) but also Beyerdynamic is a very strong specialiased brand (their T1 is my most often used pair just now) but, let’s be clear, Stax is on a totally different level than anything else when it comes to natural acoustical sound of a cappella singing: my great favourite ensemble The King’s Singers sound like they’d invited me into their lineup with those “headspeakers “.

  7. King says:

    If you are not going to mention the HD650s for outstanding value, it’s difficult to take this article seriously. This is like a go to recommendation for many, and for good reason—this former flagship open back product cannot be beat in it’s price range, even after 10 years.

    Beats weren’t mentioned, because Beats are terrible regardless of price point. They are not comfortable, and the sound is thoroughly mediocre. They are also tacky and unbecoming of a gentleman.

  8. Shane Pleasance says:

    Allow me to introduce myself – Shane Pleasance from the deep south of New Zealand. Big Sky country. New reader, loving your website, thank you good sir!

    Audio, like fashion, can polarize opinion, as you can see.

    I own several pairs (I will not disclose how many, as Mrs P may find out) of headphones. I travel a lot, and predominantly use in-ear headphones for this purpose. Although not particularly stylish, the quality available is quite stunning for the price. they are easier to lug about, and generally easy for the audio device to ‘drive’, extending battery life and (theoretically at least) sounding reasonable.

    Even at home I sometimes find myself gravitating from big Sennheisers playing lossless .flac files through my dedicated headphone amp, to little HiFiMan in-ear monitors.

    In ear headphones are hard to demonstrate, however. Too intimate really for demonstration, generally. On ears can usually be tested in shop, and take your own player, they might even let you have a listen that way!

    In any event, I suspect most of the products recommended here would please, it is just a matter of personal preference.

    Now, lets have a look for a pair of those tweed ‘phones…

  9. Eric says:

    For a guide aimed for the average person, you are missing the most important part: $100-999. The improvements are particularly small after $300. Once you spend about $300, you will need to spend on a headphone amplifier or the headphones won’t sound better than an average $300 set or can even sound worst. Here are my recommendations:

    Learn if you prefer Open or Closed headphones. Open allows you to hear sound around you but also leaks sound out. This allows for a wider sound stage at the cost of reduced bass. Closed does not leak sound but also does not allow sound in. This gives a reduction in sound stage but a big increase in bass.

    (open) Sennheiser HD558 $105

    (closed) Audio Technica M50x $1505

    (open) Sennheiser HD598 $200

    (closed) Beyerdynamic DT770 $200 (choose the 32ohm version or else you need an amp)

    (open) Beyerdynamic DT990 $200 (choose the below 32ohm version or else you need an amp)

    (closed) Denon AH-D600 $280

    (halfway between both) Beyerdynamic DT880 $350 (choose the below 32ohm version or else you need an amp)

    Sennheiser HD650 $330 (you will likely need an amp to get the best sound quality out of these and above headphones)

    You can go to head-fi.org for more information and detailed reviews on headphones.

    P.S. Brands like Dr. Dre, Beats and BOSE are absolute crap for how much they are charging. Their $300 models have the sound quality of $100 headphones. When you can get them in the low $100s is the only time you should buy. Otherwise stick to the established audio brands I mentioned above. They have been making quality equipment for much longer and don’t have to pay celebrity endorsements to sell.

  10. Jack says:

    “which rely on a radio or infrared signal like Bluetooth and Wifi”

    Sorry to be a pedant but given the accuracy and quality of the rest of this article (and the site on the whole), I feel I should point out a correction… Both Bluetooth and Wifi are radio signals. Infrared would never be used for headphones – you would need to constantly be facing the music source directly – and the bandwidth is too low, hence why they are only really used for TV remotes etc.

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